Cover up or be disqualified Uniform: A high school runner is disqualified when her pink running bra is ruled a violation of athletic dress code.

October 25, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF Free-lance writer Jeff Seidel contributed to this article.

Jill Krebs had just run her personal best, but her bra had slipped out of the strict boundaries governing the nation's high school runners.

The South Carroll High School cross-country runner was disqualified because her pink running bra, mostly concealed by her black jersey, showed at some time or another.

Routine, said the man who made the call, John Grim, the Linganore High School cross-country coach who was the meet director Oct. 18. "We followed [the rule book] chapter and verse, the way we always do. Any visible undergarments, according to the book, have to match if two or more people wear them, whether it's T-shirts, tights, boxer shorts on boys."

Why is there a book covering the undergarments that high school athletes wear?

One of the authors of that book, the rules of the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations, says it helps avoid finish line mix-ups. Karen Kuhn of Stevens Points, Wis., chairwoman of the rules committee for track and cross country, said there's another reason -- to avoid distractions from the sport, whether it's cross country, volleyball or basketball.

"It's to prevent what we have in a Dennis Rodman," she said of the flamboyant Chicago Bulls basketball player.

In the world of high school athletics, such rules govern everything from earrings (no jewelry allowed) to the color of a running bra.

Until about three years ago, officials applied that code to T-shirts and other outerwear worn under a uniform for warmth. No one had thought about bras.

Then, when running bras emerged from underneath jerseys and took on fashionable and sometimes jarring colors and patterns, the federation decided to cover them with a rule.

"Ten years ago, this didn't even exist," said Kuhn, who has been active in high school athletics for 27 years. "Then calls started coming in: Are these legal, are these appropriate?"

But, said Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Schools Athletic Association, the rule "was never intended to disqualify someone because of an undergarment that wasn't meant to be visible."

Sparks said he would expect officials to distinguish between a top meant to show and a bra that is meant more as lingerie or

support.

"My advice is, don't even see that," Sparks said. He said he may redouble efforts during clinics for officials on how to interpret the rules.

Grim was unmoved. He said several officials saw the pink bra. He saw it himself after the race started, from the back.

"That's what 'visible' means -- you can see it," he said.

Krebs said others at the race told her they saw it, but some who were there said it was most visible after she collapsed after crossing the finish line. "It's not cut high," she said of the bra.

Her mother, Diane, said she was outraged, but doesn't want the bra controversy to detract from what otherwise is a stellar senior year for Jill, considered one of the five best runners in the state for her class, with a good chance of qualifying for the state championships this Thursday at a regional meet in Montgomery County. The state meet is Nov. 8.

Her accomplishment is no mean feat for a runner who came back from a stress fracture last year to pare down her 5-kilometer time to her personal best of 19 minutes and 52 seconds.

"The more times you break 20 [minutes], the better it looks for colleges," said Jill. Her principal, David Booz, said he considered appealing last week's ruling, but decided instead to get his student-athlete focused on the next two weeks of regional and state meets.

"There is this rule and we do have to follow it," Booz said. "The second issue is, is it a good rule?"

After the season, Booz said, he plans to get Jill to help draft a letter urging that the rule be written to avoid this kind of application.

Kuhn said that no matter how the rules are written, it comes down to how local officials interpret them. There are some who interpret them too loosely, she said, and students get penalized at state meets, when it really hurts.

"We also know that at the same time, we have officials who overreact, and don't use good common sense also," Kuhn said.

Kuhn said she couldn't comment on Jill's case because she was unfamiliar with it. But she said a lot depends on what instructions students had at the beginning of the meet.

Jill and her teammates knew of the uniform code, because they almost ran into trouble two years ago when they were wearing flower-print running bras under their jerseys and someone complained they were not solid colors.

To avoid trouble, teammate Jen Jamowich made each runner a matching pink running bra in her sewing class.

All team members were wearing those pink bras at the meet last Saturday. But it was cool, so the other team members slipped on an optional white turtleneck.

So only Krebs' bra was visible under the black running jersey.

Krebs said: "That's why Jen made the bras, just so we wouldn't have that situation again."

Pub Date: 10/25/97

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